CONCERT REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Evokes Nostalgia at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre

Written by Jessica Klausing

I spent my Sunday night in Hollywood for the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour. From the melancholic opener to the victorious finale, it was a night of adventure! These scores pull you into an emotional whirlwind of highs and lows. Many laughs and tears were shared within the Dolby Theatre as an orchestra performed a beloved Disney and Square Enix video game franchise.

Kingdom Hearts follows Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they fight off shadowy creatures who steal people’s hearts. This universe combines Disney and Final Fantasy characters in a tale of overcoming darkness through light. In honor of its 15th anniversary, Disney Concerts, Square Enix and La Fee Sauvage brings these touching stories to life through cinematic orchestration.

Following Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the concert featured video footage from the game saga on three large screens. The large screens are mesmerizing. The opener, “Hikari,” gave viewers the illusion of being with Sora, Donald, and Goofy in the Dream Drop Distance introduction.

 Photo by NintendoWire

Photo by NintendoWire

The hauntingly beautiful piano centered “Dearly Beloved” took us on a live-action stroll through the woodlands. “Twinkle Twinkle Holidays” had no stock footage. A visual would have been a nice gesture. However, this piece gave the incredibly talented Los Angeles Philharmonic Concert Orchestra the much deserved spotlight.

“The World of Kingdom Hearts” re-visits many fan favorite levels such as Olympus Coliseum, Halloween Town, Beast’s Castle, Neverland and more. The orchestra beautifully captured the symphony’s more whimsical moments and then let loose into a dramatic boss battle. The cinematography timed out perfectly through each transition. No glitches or issues.

“Destati” was a powerful piece. Hearing the choir chant out the solemn Italian lyrics sent chills down my spine. Each boom of the rhythm section gave it a real end of the world vibe. The choir upped the emotional dosage again for Roxas’s theme in the characters’ medley. Fans were reminded of his sacrifice to awaken Sora in the Kingdom Hearts II prologue. It’s astounding how a short composition can pack an angst filled punch to the gut.

On a brighter note, the concert included three exclusive voice sequences from Japanese actors Risa Uchida (Kairi/Xion) and Megumi Toyoguchi (Aqua), which were recorded exclusively for the orchestration. Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura made a surprise appearance after the Kingdom Hearts III trailer. According to Nomura, a huge Kingdom Hearts announcement will be made at the Disney Expo this year!

Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura came onstage to play piano for the closer, “Passion.” I wish we could have heard Hikaru Utada’s vocals but the instrumental version was still compelling. I left the theatre eager to break out my old Playstation 2 to relive the adventure again.

The Kingdom Hearts Orchestra is a nostalgic wave of emotion. Hearing these scores performed live rekindled my fond memories of playing the games for the first time. The combination of stunning visuals and a rich sound is breathtaking. The orchestra puts on a flawless performance. I highly recommend checking it out.

SETLIST

ACT 1:

Hikari (Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Instrumental Version)

Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts II Version)

Destati

Organization XIII

Twinkle Twinkle Holidays

Treasured Memories

The World of Kingdom Hearts

Fate of the Unknown

Threats of the Land: Kingdom Hearts Battle Medley

ACT 2:

Heroes and Heroines: Characters’ Medley

Lazy Afternoons (At Dusk I Will Think Of You)

Vector to the Heavens

Wave of Darkness

Daybreak Town: The Heart of X

The Other Promise

Let Darkness Assemble: Final Boss Battle Medley

Passion (Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Instrumental Version)